The buzz words are familiar: Communism; five-year plans; the Soviet Union; and totalitarianism. These words evoke a common idea: a disease called Centralized Planning.
The San Francisco Bay Area (much of the rest of America) has succumbed the malady of Centralized Planning.
One need only visit Orinda, California, a small city in Contra Costa County, to see how Centralized Planning has wrecked a semi-rural, village-like environment.
Orinda, a town of 17,000 people, was the kind of place that epitomized 1950’s America. The schools were locally controlled. There was adequate parking downtown, traffic was not a problem, unimpeded views of the nearby hills were possible, and crime was virtually non-existent.
About 10 years ago, Orinda fell under the control of an autocratic city council and an elitist bureaucracy. No longer would voters be in control of events. Hack politicians and their henchmen would run the city their way. No dissent was permitted.
In the last decade, Orinda became a city that gave real-estate developers just about everything they wanted. The Wilder project, which, when completed, will contain some 250 new homes located on the top of a hill between downtown Orinda and the Caldecott Tunnel. The tunnel links Orinda with Oakland and Berkeley.
Anyone visiting Wilder will find a barren plot of land resembling a moonscape. A cold wind is constantly blowing. Smaller homes will cost $1.5 million. Larger ones will sell for about $3 million.
On January 25, 2013, ground-breaking began on the 67-unit Monteverde Senior Center, a project in the heart of downtown. Monteverde will have about 30 parking spaces. The project will add to the already miserable parking and traffic conditions that bedevil today’s Orinda.
Then there is the Pulte development near Orinda’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. The Pulte project is known as Orinda Grove and will contain 73 homes ranging in size from 1,500 to 2,600 square feet. Prices for homes in Orinda Grove start at $1.2 million. Median home prices in Contra Costa County are about $400,000 and about $530,000 in the Bay Area. The homes are generally three feet apart, eliminating any privacy.
Real-estate development in Orinda is a top priority with the city council. The council’s five members — Sue Severson, Amy Worth, Steve Glazer, Victoria Smith, and Dean Orr — generally approve new real-estate project unanimously.
Steve Glazer recently ran for a State Assembly seat in the June 2014 primary. Real estate interests allegedly poured over $1 million into Glazer’s campaign. Nonetheless, Glazer lost the primary. The Contra Costa Times has called Glazer California Governor, Jerry Brown’s top adviser. Both Brown and Glazer are Democrats.
Amy Worth is not only a member of the city council. She is also chairperson of the MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission). MTC handles regional transportation planning for the Bay Area. Worth was elected by voters to her city council position. She was not elected by voters to her MTC job.
On July 18, 2013, the directors of MTC and ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) held a joint meeting in Oakland. At the meeting, MTC and ABAG voted to approved Plan Bay Area, a scheme to construct high-rise, high-density apartment near transportation hubs. Plan Bay Area (also called One Bay Area) is a scheme to force residents out of their cars and into apartments. The public goal is to limit air pollution. The private goal is to feed the coffers of real-estate developers.
In addition to the city council, Orinda has two principle bureaucrats constantly promoting new real-estate development. They are Janet Keeter, the city manager, and Emmanuel Ursu, the planning director.
Orinda’s power brokers — they include the city council and the city’s bureaucrats — simply do not understand that Centralized Planning does not work.
Here is an example. The office of 1940 had manual typewriters, carbon paper, slide rules, and telephones which, when someone wanted to make a call, required the caller to pick up the receiver to hear an operator say, “Number, please.”
The office of 2014 has computers, e-mail, voice-mail, iPhones, fax machines, and photocopy machines. How could anyone in 1940 have predicted what the office of 2014 would be like?
Orinda’s government likes Centralized Planning. But Centralized Planning will lead to overcrowded schools, more traffic and parking problems, obscured views of the nearby hills, and the loss of the city’s semi-rural environment.
In November 2014, three of Orinda’s five city council seats will be open. Orindans should hope that advocates of Centralized Planning will be not be elected.
Contra Costa County residents must realize that Centralized Planning is occurring in other parts of the county. Centralized Planning is occurring in Moraga, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, and other cities. The loud sirens of fire engines might be emanating from a new building next door.